Category: Lilacs

Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

A cool and rainy spring in Saint Paul keeps me cooking indoors.  Typically I’d be raking together a salad while Dave grilled chicken or salmon.  Instead, just back from our happy daughter Emily’s graduation from seminary at Princeton, I’m slaving over a hot stove.  Well,  not really.

Here is Emily with her proud parents.  We sang in the choir! Go, Emily!

I will say that once I decided to make and blog some Asian noodles, they were everywhere I looked online.  Like this version from FOOD AND WINE.   I ignored all that and forged ahead.  Hmph; great minds think alike, etc.

If you’re looking for something luscious, filling, and healthy for dinner with plenty leftover for a cold lunch or tomorrow’s dinner, this is your meal.   The short story is that you cook up some noodles with snow peas, asparagus, and shrimp.  You stir in all kinds of things to make it taste good, and let your family or guests choose their toppings — a variety of chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, lime and nuts– at the table.

OR:  Add just the vegetables and “sauce” ingredients (skip the shrimp), along with the peanut topping, and you have a great side for meats you might be grilling for Memorial Day.  I picture this with  salmon, pork chops, or chicken, perhaps those that have been lolling around in an Asian marinade before grilling.

Try this photo recipe:  (Ingredients are in bold type.)

 
sesame-shrimp noodles with fresh vegetable toppings

4 servings
8 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points per serving

Place 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until light brown.  Remove from heat; pour into a small bowl and place on table.  Chop 1/4 cup plain peanuts, scoop into another small bowl, and place on table.

Pour 2 tablespoons canola oil into the skillet over low heat and add 1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic.  Cook a minute or two or just until garlic begins to color.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring 5-6 quarts of salted and peppered water to boil for the pasta.  While it heats, chop 1/2 cup each bok choy, fresh cilantro, scallions (green onions), and cucumber.  Chop all of one red bell pepper.  Cut a lime into wedges.   Place the vegetables and the lime wedges side by side in a large bowl or in separate small bowls and put them on the table by the sesame seeds and peanuts.

 
To the by now boiling water, add one pound whole wheat linguine (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best) and cook for about 7 minutes.   Stir in 3/4 pound (12 ounces) fresh peeled and deveined shrimp, a cup each of stringed+ fresh snow peas and chopped fresh asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp is firm and pink and noodles are nearly tender.

 
  Drain pasta, shrimp, asparagus and peas.  Pour back into the pot and, while hot, stir in garlic-ginger oil,  a generous pinch of crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1/4 cup  soy sauce and 1  tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of Sriracha,  and the juice of one lime.   Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, or lime, if needed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in shallow pasta bowls; pass fresh vegetables, extra lime slices, soy sauce, and chopped peanuts so that guests can add what they’d like at the table.

Cook’s Notes: 

+Destringing snow peas  If you don’t destring your snow peas, you’ll be flossing (without meaning to) during dinner. 

If you have a vegan or vegetarian in your group, cook the shrimp separately and place it in a separate bowl on the table.  You could add sauteed tofu, if desired, or 2 -3 tablespoons peanut butter to the soy sauce mixture.

If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can add sliced chicken with the garlic-ginger oil instead of cooking shrimp with the noodles.

Vegetables are very interchangeable; please add what you have or you like.  For instance, julienned carrots could be used instead of asparagus or sliced celery in place of the snow peas.  

My lilac are in bloom–finally.  But it’s too cold and rainy to go enjoy them.  Hopefully tomorrow!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Trading Granola for Eggs – My Urban Barter Tale

Trading Granola for Eggs – My Urban Barter Tale

I was on the road a couple of weeks ago and checking my computer when my I-Spy Radar saw an email with a subject line that had something to do with too many fresh eggs and trading cookies for them.  I try and stay off email a lot when I’m away seeing my kids or on vacation, but I couldn’t NOT look at this one.  Backyard eggs just hook me right in.  And, of course, cookies fall right out of my oven.

My siblings and I grew up with fresh eggs; my dad either traded produce for them or shelled out a little cash to his Swedish farmer friend Munson.  When our  parents retired and took it (ha!) easy on a little “hobby” farm,  they had their own chickens and, hence, their own eggs, to say nothing of a garden that produced tomatoes the likes of which I’ve never again tasted.  When Dave and I visited as newlyweds, we had fresh eggs (fried in bacon or sausage grease) every morning early.  Why would you want anything else?  And why not at 6am?  There, of course, were also biscuits.  With sour cream and honey or molasses.  Unending pots of coffee.

To say that  mass-produced eggs pale in comparison is an apt description.  Don’t you love the looks of this egg produced by one of Cathy’s ladies?

(Read my post about this salsa here.)

So, anyway,  I missed great eggs for years.  I really missed them because I just love eggs.  I go through phrases where sure that the SB diet will take off my well-fed excess, I eat them daily.  Then I begin to worry about the cholesterol and switch back to egg whites.  Whichever, I always eat vegetables for breakfast, too.  (Alternately, I’ll eat yogurt and fresh fruit for weeks on end–with my homemade low-fat granola.)  But back to the email:  as soon as I could arrange it,  I was ready to start trading whatever I had for those eggs

In St. Paul, you can now raise chickens in your own back yard.  Right in the city.  Now I don’t have much space, and I’m only fond of eggs, not chickens, so I’m not putting up a coop back there in place of my postage stamp patio.  But I’m happy to oblige my friend Cathy and her family, who are the ones suffering from the overage.  Her “ladies” live in the yard, eat well, exercise daily, and are nearly pets who produce things like this:

 Here’s a closer up pic so maybe you can see the beautiful colors.  The whites are nearly blue:

One week, I traded some oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies:

This week I made granola for Dave, so just made a bigger batch and traded that.

It’s lovely with milk, better with plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and best with homemade ricotta and fresh fruit. Naturally, you can scoop up a little and eat it out of hand.  (I do recommend leaving a scoop or spoon in the jar as you’re keeping this granola awhile.)  Your choice.   Whatever you do, I hope you find someone with whom to trade it so that you can eat eggs like I’m eating!  Thanks, ladies.

alyce’s low-fat granola with apricots, currants, and cherries
based on David Lebovitz’  recipe, which he says was based on Nigella Lawson’s!

  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 2t ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups each: chopped walnuts and almonds
  • 1/2 cup each: pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped dried apricots, cherries, and currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup each: real maple syrup and honey  (can use all honey)
  • 3/4 c applesauce 
  • 2T olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl or soup pot.  (oats through seeds)  Meantime, heat liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring, in a small sauce pan until just warm and well-combined. (syrup, honey, applesauce, and oil).  Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix well for a few minutes.  Pour onto two or three large, rimmed baking sheets and bake 50-60 minutes until dry, golden, and crispy, stirring 3-4 times during the baking time.  Store in a tightly-sealed container for up to a month.  (This granola will not keep well in a plastic bag.)

Cook’s Notes:

1.  I thought I’d share the differences between my granola and David Lebovitz’–his included 3/4 cup brown sugar (I skipped that) and had no fruit at all (I like fruit).  I also added ground cloves, which are optional.  But I definitely borrowed the idea of applesauce in place of the large amount oil usually used in granola and part of the reason it’s so caloric.  This is very low fat, crispy, tasty, and…  well, you’ll like it.

If you’ve never visited the magical David Lebovitz blog,  please do yourself a favor and make the trip today.  David is an American pastry chef living in Paris who always has a great story to tell—  The food’s lovely, too, but it’s the stories that bring me back again and again.  FYI–David also does things like Paris Chocolate Tours if you ever get to the City of Light.  If you want more info, check the blog or ask David yourself in the comment section of his blog.

2.  Changing it up:  The number of additions (and the size of their amounts), to the oats is rather flexible., as are the spices.   If you only have a few nuts and some raisins, for instance, you can still make this granola.  Or if you have only apricots and almonds…you can still make this granola.  Only have cinnamon?  Use 3 teaspoon cinnamon then.  See?   Do keep the main ingredients and proportions intact:  oats, honey, maple syrup, applesauce, and oil.

two-dog kitchen and a bit of travel

Mother Gabriela

Our lilacs through the piano window.  Two views–above and below.

Above: Tasting Sean’s brews in Colorado.  Our son’s on his way to becoming a master brewer.  Woo hoo!

Above:  In Princeton–a facade saved, ready for its new building to be built behind.  Meantime, you can see the sky!

My Easter cake…will blog soon.  Great for spring!

Dogwood blossom in Princeton

 With Dave and Emily eating lunch in the sunshine in the West Village

                                                  At The Spotted Pig in NYC,  April Bloomfield’s restaurant.
                                                        Couldn’t get in.  🙁

Dappled light –West Village/NYC (above)

Gorgeous window boxes in downtown Princeton (above)

Princeton spring–Dogwoods (above)

“Yes, we did,”  said Gab and Tuck

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Pasta Primavera with New Peas, Ramps, Leeks, Asparagus, et al or I Guess I’m Home Because the Cream Soups are Unpacked

Pasta Primavera with New Peas, Ramps, Leeks, Asparagus, et al or I Guess I’m Home Because the Cream Soups are Unpacked

If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it’s spring, it’s a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it’s time for Pasta Primavera, it’s a good time for pink wine.  French rosé.  Or Oregon rosé.

You needn’t be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010).  It shouldn’t cost much–not more than $15 and often much less.  Just make sure you have enough.  A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.

And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat’s cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind.  Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat’s cheese.  Promise.

I’m sold lately on lemon ice cream.  In fact, it’s a perfect solution to dessert.

Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.

I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn’t use as much sugar.  I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was.  The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.)  Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.

About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they’d all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.).  If you go to the farmer’s markets now (when you think there’ll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables.  If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.

A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish.  There’s a core here much like in cabbage.  Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.

Fresh pea shoots–leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants.  Yummy greens.

 The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables  would look like this (and I don’t think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):

Ramps–quite like scallions

 

1.  Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil.  (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes.  That is,  unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2.  Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family:  scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced.  I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened.  A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here.  Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3.  Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden.  They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do.  Don’t salt them til later.  Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them  and pepper it all lightly.  (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.)  Remove them from the pan and add to the onion  mixture.  Note:  Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning.  Don’t stir until well-browned on one side.  Watch closely!
4.  A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables.  We’ll let you slide by with it.  After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper.   Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning,  and set aside.  These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.

5.  Cook your pound of  pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables.  Mix well.  I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6.  If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  (Good cold, too.)
7.  Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.

Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation:  Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes.  Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes.  Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions.  If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup.  Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Serve hot and  pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.  

Nothing like fresh ricotta.

This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners.  Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped.  Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés.  Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines.  The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.

If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American.  Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman?  Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive.  Which is always good.

Well–all that said:

It’s spring.  The flowers are in bloom.  Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold.  Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts. 

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.  

I must be home.  The cream soups are here.

House being prepared for paint.

 St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions
Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it!  From…

Farmer’s market rhubarb.

Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.

Our side yard (south)

Front yard tree.

  Our house from the north.

Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.

I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!

 Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!
Alyce

It’s Spring and a Girl’s Thoughts turn to…. Lamb and Lilacs

It’s Spring and a Girl’s Thoughts turn to…. Lamb and Lilacs

   A couple of weeks’ spate of travel, moving trucks, and unpacking have denied me blogging time, but I’m back.  As I write, the books are still stacked, the dishes are in disarray, the painters are scraping merrily and loudly, and the most recent house guests just took off for the interstate.  The crazy life has left us reaching into our back pockets for meals we can fix blindfolded, and here’s an easy, elegant supper for a cool spring evening…

Grilled Lamb Chops and Roasted Carrots, Potatoes and Red Onions serves 4

12 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1-2″ pieces on a decided angle
12 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half or quarters
2 large red onions, cut into eights (trim so blossom end is barely cut off- so onion pieces hold together)
4T fresh rosemary, minced
1t kosher salt; 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (Plain old oil is fine–needn’t be extra virgin.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place vegetables on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  Toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and crispy at edges.

8 lamb chops ( I like loin chops, but shoulder chops would do!),
3T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat grill pan over high heat.  Meantime, brush lamb with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place lamb chops on hot grill and cook 2-4 minutes each side, depending on how done you like your lamb.  2 minutes will be rare, 3 medium, etc.  You can also choose to grill for 1 minute and finish cooking the chops in the oven.  Whichever way you choose, you might want to test the temperature of the chops.  Not everyone will agree, but I think 130 degrees F is about medium…still pink, but not rare and not done.  Try 120 for rare and 140 for medium-well done.  Let meat rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

 Need something green?    Asparagus, of course.  Grill or steam–your choice.  It’s that time of year.

Taken last May at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

 Wine:    We drank an Aussie Shiraz with this meal.  Forefathers makes their McLaren Vale Shiraz moving toward spicy, but not terribly peppery.  Ours was an 05 and ready to go.
Dessert:  I hate to admit I made apple-raisin bread pudding, topped with a baby-sized slug of Asbach-Uralt (German brandy…Weinbrand, actually.) and a spoonful of ice cream.  What else do you do with old baguette?

 Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the New ‘Hood
  Our 100-year old lilac trees are about to burst the bounds of beauty..two more days til full-bloom.

You always knew I was a Bleeding Heart, right?

 

Just back from walk to the Mississippi River and back.

White Bleeding Hearts

Driveway tulips.

West side tulips and strawberries just beginning to bloom

Going outdoors–my favorite distraction.

Before clearing room for piano

How to put rugs down when the dirty floor is covered with boxes?

 

Who bought all those serving pieces and quiche dishes anyway?

The cookbooks start to go up.

From naturalized front yard

Unpacked books from boxes making way for piano

More cookbooks up

Piano window area cleared for piano delivery

Now you don’t see it, now you do.

The new big mess.

Office furniture delivered and installed…unpacking now

Our hundred-year old lilac trees beginning to bloom.  May 18, 2011.

Joyce Smith visits from Sandpoint

Almost bloomed tiny lilacs on trees.
All the way from Colorado Springs to The Groveland Tap…Sara loved it.

Mother’s Day Weekend in Princeton–Wine-Tasting Luncheon

Sing a new song,
Alyce